Subscribers’ Overall Evaluation of a Multi-experience Cultural Service, Tolerance for Disappointment, and Sustainable Loyalty (Abridged)

by Zakia Obaidalahe, Francis Salerno, François Colbert.

Both the core product and the peripheral services can trigger emotions in audience members[i]. Indeed, consumers who experience a positive emotion while attending a concert are likely to recommend the orchestra, while negative emotions tend to produce the opposite effect.

The consumer’s satisfaction can be seen in terms of a chain of events composed of the following elements: Event, Emotions, Trust, Value, Involvement, Satisfaction, Repurchase Intentions, Word-of-Mouth and Recommendation (Figure 1). A positive emotion or evaluation of the core product or the peripheral services and the social environment not only helps build the consumer’s trust, but also creates value in the eyes of the audience. Trust and a perception of value lead to involvement, which, in turn, influences satisfaction. While it is unlikely that a satisfied customer will come back to see the same work a second time, it is likely they will return to see another concert by the same orchestra (repurchase intention) and they may say good things about it (word-of-mouth) and recommend the concert or orchestra to others (recommendation). The opposite is also true: negative emotions in relation to the three dimensions of the cultural offering will diminish trust in the organization and reduce involvement, which in turn leads to dissatisfaction or disappointment.research-article-purchase-repurchase-model

The Importance of Tolerance for Disappointment

The consumption of cultural products carries an inherent risk due to the fact that each new artistic offering is different from the others. For example, a theatre is constantly in the position of offering a new product. However, a theatre subscriber can mitigate potential disappointment by offsetting an experience of a bad performance with other play during the season. Similarly, a negative emotion in relation to the core service (the show) can be offset by the positive emotions triggered by the peripheral services or social interactions experienced during the event.

For example, the works proposed to subscribers of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago are highly challenging, but subscribers say that they remain loyal to Steppenwolf because even if they don’t like a show, they know they can always count on exceptionally good acting[ii]. In fact, these subscribers identify with the theatre and are willing to tolerate a certain amount of disappointment.

Sustainable subscriber loyalty is thus reflected in two main dimensions: subscription renewal intention and recommendation intention.

Feelings of disappointment generated by bad concerts are tolerated because they are offset by the good concerts, as well as by the positive experiences with peripheral services and social interactions.

The sustainable loyalty that occurs when subscribers renew their subscription and make positive recommendations to others reflects a genuine form of loyalty. This loyalty behaviour can be explained by a combination of emotional, social, individual and situational factors that reflect the multidimensional nature of high art products mentioned earlier.

It is important for managers of organisations that offer season subscriptions to pay special attention to all peripheral services and to social interaction in order to build or maintain subscriber loyalty in spite of the inevitable disappointment subscribers may experience in relation to certain events. Services these managers should focus on include ensuring a hospitable welcome and environment, the comfort of the venue, personalized relations with customers, the creation of a friendly space for gatherings and discussion, food and beverage services, etc.

Managers should also strive to enhance the audience’s experience of the venue as a creator of social ties. Audience members are generally very appreciative of the opportunity to meet with the artists, discuss performances with other audience members and debate with the artistic team, and they derive special satisfaction when they receive a warm welcome from the theatre’s staff. The role of social identification should also be acknowledged by managers through a diversification of audiences in order to counter the traditional image of orchestra concerts as elitist.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra doing a concert of the soundtrack to the movie Psycho. Photo: Daniel Aulsebrook

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra doing a concert of the soundtrack to the movie Psycho. Photo: Daniel Aulsebrook

Path to fidelity

As shown in Figure 1, customer service is an important component of the aesthetic experience in the arts sector. It is part of a chain of elements that can lead to either a rejection of the work or venue, on the one hand, or loyalty and recommendations to others, on the other hand.

Emotions are generated by three components of the experience: the concert itself, the quality of the peripheral services, and social interaction and the formation of small worlds[iii]. These three components are themselves influenced by the audience’s ability to pass through the appropriation cycle and to integrate the new elements of the performance in their nest[iv]. Similarly, the pro-social values demonstrated by the concert venue tend to have a positive influence on the music lover’s appreciation of the company, particularly in the case of women[v].

All these elements trigger emotions in audience members that lead them to attach value to their experience and, in turn, this value influences their involvement in the venue and builds their trust in the organization.

If this chain is negative, consumers who have a tolerance for disappointment may nonetheless feel satisfied and go back a second time and/or recommend the company to others. On the other hand, if they have no tolerance for disappointment, there is a risk that they could reject the organization.

As we can see, the role of the manager of arts organisations, even if he or she has nothing to do with the work of art itself (this falls under the responsibility of the artistic director), can positively influence the experience of live performance by creating an environment that enhances the experience.

The complete article is published in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 20, Number 1, Fall 2017.

[i] Palmer, A., & Koenig-Lewis, N. (2010), “Primary and Secondary Effects of Emotions on Behavioural Intention of Theatre Clients”, Journal of Marketing Management, 26(13/14), 1201-1217.

[ii] Ravanas, P. (2006), “Born to Be Wise: The Steppenwolf Theatre Company Mixes Freedom with Management Savvy”, International Journal of Arts Management, 8 (3), 64-76.

[iii] Gainer, B. (1995), “Rituals and Relationships: Interpersonal Influences on Shared Consumption”, Journal of Business Research, 32, 253-260.

[iv] Caru, A., B. Cova, (2005), “The Impact of Service Elements on the Artistic Experience: The Case of Classical Music Concerts.” International Journal of Arts Management, 7(2) 39–55.

[v] Voss, Z.G., V. Cova (2006), “How sex differences in perceptions influence customer Satisfaction: A Study of Theatre Audiences”, Marketing Theory, 6(2), 201-221

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